Chapter 11 Summary: Yaffa is concerned that her mother doesn’t appreciate how difficult it will be for her to care for her husband when he comes home. She and Ari discuss whether their parents can afford to hire an aide.
Ilana walked slowly through the university grounds, looking around her in wonder. The last time she’d been here had been about twenty years ago. The buildings hadn’t changed much but… the people!
Had there been so many Arab students back when she’d studied in the graduate program? Had the girls dressed quite so… undressed?
Or had she just become old?
She walked along the familiar path to the Naftali building that housed the Department of Social Sciences. Turning a corner, she just managed to sidestep a group of students holding placards screaming Death of Democracy! and Bibi=Fascist!
Casting an uncomfortable glance at the group, she rushed on, insides squirming. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Professor Goldfarb was on a phone call when she arrived, and, while waiting, she perused the signs on the bulletin board outside his office. Someone was looking for people to participate in a research study on The Challenges of Moving Out: How Social Policies Can Assist the Cultural Integration of Former Haredim. Another sign advertised a lecture on Gender Fluidity and Increasing Gender-Sensitivity in our Schools.
Ilana pressed her fingernails into her palms. Yes, Tel Aviv University was not Beit Shemesh. Was that a shock? She took a breath. It was okay, she could do this. How often would she need to come to the campus, anyway? This was her dream; it was worth it.
The office door opened. “Ilana? At yechola lehikaneis.”
She walked inside, trying to summon up a confidence she didn’t quite feel.
“Hello, thanks for meeting with me.” She sat down, clasped her hands, then unclasped them. Open. Strong. Self-assured.
“Welcome back.” Dr. Goldfarb smiled at her. Back in her days, he’d been a junior professor on the staff; now, he was head of the department.
“Thanks. Good to be back.” She swallowed. “How have you been? I remember you’d had a baby back when I was here; he must be all grown now.”
“Yes, he’s finishing his army service. Air force,” he added proudly, as he indicated a picture of a uniformed young man on his desk.
Ilana’s shoulders stiffened. Was she the only person in this entire country who didn’t see her son joining the army as a source of endless pride and joy?
“Handsome,” she said.
She sat back in her chair, as the professor cleared his throat. “I reviewed your research proposal.” He read from his computer. “Discovering the Common Denominator: Developing Social-Cultural Programs to Promote Unity Between Disparate Communities in Israeli Society. It’s an intriguing topic. I discussed this with my committee and we agreed it looks promising.”
Her stomach fluttered, as he took off his glasses and leaned forward. “However, before accepting it, we need you to make some adjustments. Your proposal only mentioned Jewish communities within our society. Our university clearly stands for ethnic diversity and inclusion, and any research that proposes to encompass the entire Israeli society must include Arab and other minorities.”
Ilana’s toes curled inside her shoes. “I see,” she said quietly.
“We already know you’re an experienced and talented researcher, and have a lot to contribute.” His face relaxed into a smile. “We’d love to have you back in our program. But, you understand, it needs to comply with our values.”
She breathed deeply. He wanted her back. An experienced and talented researcher! A lot to contribute! When was the last time anyone had told her that?
Slowly, she nodded. “Yes, I think that should be fine.”
Yaffa had googled “How to talk to your elderly parents about their finances,” but after considering conversation openers like asking what they’d done to provide for the kids when Yaffa was growing up (her mother would look at her like she was from Mars), she’d decided the direct approach was best.
The moment presented itself when she found her mother squinting over a bill she’d gotten in the mail.
“Why can’t they write these in plain English?” she was muttering to herself, as Yaffa walked into the den.
“Need help?” she asked.
Her mother handed her the paper, which was a statement from Medicare. “I can’t understand what they’re writing here. Something about a $1,600 deductible. Does that mean we owe them money, or did we already pay it?” She rubbed her forehead. “Dad always takes care of these things.”
Yaffa scanned the statement. “It says you need to pay this bill.”
Gail nodded. “Thanks. Let me write out a check right now.” She sat down at the desk and pulled a checkbook out of a drawer.
Yaffa frowned. “You pay your Medicare fees by mail? Why don’t you set up an automatic bill payment?”
Gail shrugged. “Dad gets nervous about letting some company have access to our bank account.”
Seriously? Yaffa bit her lip. She pulled up a chair next to her mother.
“Mom,” she said gently. “I was thinking, after what happened to Dad, that it might be a good idea to sit down with me, Ari and Ilana and discuss your finances.”
Gail’s pen stopped moving. “Our finances? What do you mean?”
“As you said, Dad’s the one who’s always taken care of your finances and bills and things. Im yirtzeh Hashem, he should recover fully, but you see what happens even now when he’s not able to manage things. Wouldn’t you like to know that you can turn to us for help?”
Gail cocked her head to the side. “I…guess that makes sense,” she said falteringly. “But I don’t know. I’d need to talk to Dad about it. He’s always been so independent.”
Yaffa clenched her fingers. Talk to Dad? Did her mother understand that Dad was not in a state to make these decisions?
“Sure, talk to Dad,” she said. “But in the meantime, can you just give me a sense? I mean, investments? Retirement plans? Social security? Do you have a general idea of your monthly income?”
Gail looked at her blankly. “Dad really takes care of these things,” she repeated. “I know we have investments; he’s always spoken about them. The investments have done quite nicely, I believe. But I really don’t know details. Is it very important?”
Yaffa wished Ari or Ilana were here with her right now to push her case – or, at the very least, to have someone with whom she could exchange an exasperated glance.
She put a hand on her mother’s arm. “Mom, after being here the past few days, I feel strongly that you should get an aide to help you out when Dad gets home. He’s going to need physical assistance, and I don’t want you to strain yourself or make yourself sick trying to do more than you’re able.”
Her mother nodded slowly. “Yes, I see what you’re saying. But… to have some stranger in my home all the time?”
“It doesn’t have to be all the time. He or she can come just during the day, or sleep over – whatever you feel you need. But it costs money.”
Yaffa put her hand down on the desktop. “Paying for an aide is a significant extra expense, and I’d like to know whether…” She shifted in her seat. “Well, I mean, if you need it, of course, the expense doesn’t matter, we’ll figure it out. But still, it would be helpful to know whether your monthly income can handle it.”
“Oh, that’s what you mean.” Gail carefully put the check she’d written into the return envelope and licked it closed. Then she looked up at Yaffa. “Yes, I’m fairly sure we have enough to handle it. But if you want to be certain, why don’t you speak to our accountant? I can give you his number.”
Yaffa smiled. “That would be perfect.”
By Ariella Aaron